Sunday, 13 June 2021

Upcott, Seaton, Devon

Loosely following on from the previous two posts about coastal erosion, Upcott - a lovely Arts and Crafts style building dating from the late 1880s - is situated on Old Beer Road, part of which vanished during a cliff fall in 2012.

I took the first photo on a whim, whilst walking past a long time ago. The rest of the photos were taken in May 2012 - fortunately just a couple of months before the road was inaccessible - when I sneaked up some steps and along a side path on the other side of the property.
Taking photos on the way was really lovely, partly for the fun of gradually sneaking up but also to see how the view of the building unfolded.

I found some interesting history about the building's beginnings from the website of Savills Properties, the estate agent, when It was up for sale, and which says in part...

"Believed to have been designed by David Carr, a renowned local Arts and Crafts architect, it is understood that the property was built for a wealthy Naval Officer."

I tried to find out more about the architect but the only thing I discovered was a reference to him having built Garlands House in the nearby village of Beer. He is described as being a famous architect and resident of Beer, and also belonging to the well-known Carr's Biscuits family.

The house eventually became a venue for holiday renting, which I wasn't aware of at the time of my visit, but before that it became Upcott Christian Centre. I know two of the people that ran the centre at that time and when my son was little we went there to the Mother & Toddler Group once a week. However, due to the increasing instability of the cliffs near to the road they decided to relocate in 2007.

There's a little potted history about them at Upcott, which you can read on their website here.

From the gate up to the house put me on private property so I didn't take any more until I could ask for permission. As it happens, no-one answered the door so I just took a few close-ups of the house from where I was and left it at that. There were a couple of people sitting in deckchairs on the distant lawn and I assumed they were visitors at the centre - not knowing the centre had moved - otherwise I could have asked them instead!

Like many buildings of Seaton, Beer and Axmouth, it was built using traditional local materials of flintstone together with quoins of limestone from the nearby Beer Quarry. Beer Stone was also used for the columns along the terrace which support the portico and veranda above that on the first floor. To the right is a balcony without lower supports and a turret on the left corner of the front elevation. On the gables this side - above left photo - are some lovely hanging tiles in red clay.

I did take these last two photos on the way out, though, to ensure I had enough of the whole building itself. And then enjoyed that lovely walk down the steps again. :)

Saturday, 12 June 2021

Coastal Erosion, Seaton, Devon - Part Two


Following on from Part One, which can be seen in the previous post, I had a walk along Old Beer Road on 7th July 2012 after torrential rain caused floods and landslides a few days earlier. The trees on the left side of the above photo were once part of the coastal side of the road, which started to collapse soon after the floods. Looking more like bushes as the trees have slid down leaving just the tops showing. 


I lived in Seaton Hole for several years (until moving nearer to the town, then back again for a few more years until going to live in Seaton proper) and whilst there that part of the road and pavement were moved inward and narrowed at least twice, and a very pretty walk beneath the trees near to the picnic area is no longer there.

Talking to a steward at the local museum, he told me the story of a friend of his who was mowing his lawn when half of it suddenly disappeared over the cliff! That must have been a fright, although at least it saved him having to mow the rest...unless he'd already done that bit first!

The road later collapsed once again, taking a huge chunk leaving nowhere else for another road as there are properties on the other side. This time a proper pallisade fence was erected to prevent people and cars from dropping into the chasm. Gas pipes for the houses were damaged when they were ripped out from the ground during the fall and had to be replaced and left above ground, as can be seen in the photos below. The dark part across the road beyond the pipes is the chasm. 

Another view of the very first photo in the Part One article; this time with a tree that fell from the cliffs. As well as this and the road collapse, some other damage occurred along the coast during and after the torrential rains.

However, the erosion is a continual process and not always as dramatic as that week, although small cliff falls along the White Cliff and Beer Head have been a continuous thing over the years. I remember, especially during the winter, the booming sounds of cliff falls in the night when I lived at Seaton Hole.

Meanwhile, there were some minor cliff falls along West Walk from the Chine almost to the centre of the beach at a section known as Fisherman's Gap. 

There was no major damage here but several beach huts were pushed away from the wall by mud, stones and branches from trees. They don't look too bad in my photos but they had been tidied up a bit and the path swept by the time I got there! However, the huts are rather heavy so the fall must have been hefty enough to push them away from the wall.

Where part of the cliff fell can be seen in the photos below as well as some more crazy angles of the huts.


Another consequence of the weather was the flooding of the River Axe.


I walked up towards the harbour mouth, below, only to be met by a barrier further along. A chap I know was there too, and we stood chatting away for a while and getting absolutely soaked by the rain which had started up again.

Below is a photo I took over the barrier. It can't really be seen clearly but there was a cliff fall towards the end, spilling trees and earth onto the path and into the river. On the left side, and three-quarters of the way up the cliff, there was an area known as the Elephant Graveyard. It was absolutely gorgeous; a lovely hideaway with its own microcosm and wild flowers in abundance, including species of British wild orchids. I'd climbed up there a couple of times, then on up to the golf course at the top of the cliff. I'd heard a very long time ago that to be considered a true Seatonian you had to have climbed the Elephant Graveyard. Sadly, it hasn't been there for many years due to cliff falls.

The river didn't breach its banks but it was a pretty close thing, with the water just below the top of the harbour edges. 

Usually reached by fixed ladders and a landing stage further along, the boats could easily have been boarded right from the harbour edge itself because of the height of the water..

The water was just beneath the arches of the old Axmouth Bridge and not far off from the top of the new road bridge a short distance the other side. Most of the landing stage by the old bridge was submerged. 

And from the new bridge looking up river. There are several small islands in this section but they've all disappeared below the water, apart from a tiny bit of the largest one seen above the boats.

And there we have it! There may be more erosion since then but I haven't been able to walk far enough to check for it. If I do I might have a part three to do! :)